Patrick Kane led the Chicago Blackhawks in scoring, surprisingly by a high margin. Entering the season with more attention on his off-ice antics than his one-ice abilities the former first overall pick did not disappoint with 30 goals and 88 points– leading the next player Jonathan Toews by 20. Surprisingly with all the forward depth, only Kane scored 30 or more goals.
On the other hand, five forwards scored over 20 goals and Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd added 17 each as the team finished third in goals forced. For those counting at home, the five forwards to top 20 were Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Troy Brouwer, Marian Hossa and Kris Versteeg. Only one of these players were traded as GM Stan Bowman did everything he could to keep this team together and under the cap.
The departures of Ladd, Byfuglien, Versteeg, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, Adam Burish and John Madden should hurt the team’s depth but the talent surrounding them should keep the team in contention. Hossa will play more than 57 games and therefore help account for their loss and could probably help country-mate Tomas Kopecky produce as well. Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell, Jack Skille, Viktor Stalberg and some combination of newly acquired players and minor leaguers will fill out the roster as the Blackhawks look to repeat their fateful run.
Still, without the depth they once had their star players will need to play like their billing to succeed.
There may be no better pairing in hockey than Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Keith officially broke out this season with 69 points, one more than Toews. His leadership on and off the ice led to both the Cup and Olympic gold alongside his trusted partner. Although Seabrook once was the top producer on the blue line he only put across 30 points this past season. Over the years his game adapted to become one of the best two-way players but has allowed his offense to wane a bit. Do not overpay for his four goals because of an inflated plus minus.
Brian Campbell actually outscored Seabrook even though he missed 14 games.
Thought to be a large mistake when he signed a seven-year contract, the veteran defenseman seems like a lock for around 40 points with favorable powerplay totals and plus/minus ratio. Niklas Hjalmarsson rounds out the top four and has increased his production every season of his career. His stay-at-home style allows his partner Campbell to take added risks and not be burned because of it.
Antti Niemi gone in favor of the grizzled Marty Turco.
There may be an argument that Niemi was below average during the finals but results usually speak for themselves. He played a vital role when incumbent starter Cristobal Huet failed to play at a high enough level and will be missed more than the team is willing to let on. Niemi came seemingly out of nowhere as a diamond in the rough but the Blackhawks hope he fizzles out.
Going into the season with a veteran whose stats have regressed immensely and Huet seems incredibly risky. If this team holds a weakness it would be between the pipes. Turco could be an excellent sleeper or push for the team to add yet another netminder later in the season.
On the Bench:
Coach Joel Quenneville has been greatly applauded for his leadership and ability to use his talents effectively. As the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the team would have to lose for a at least two seasons to consider Coach Q the problem. Consider this job safe and sound as Quenneville will continue his system for the foreseeable future.
The Bottom Line:
The Blackhawks played great this season but how they will perform with nearly a 50 percent rate of turnover remains to be seen. Will the young kids catch on or will this team undergo more growing pains. While the team still holds promising stars waiting to hit their prime, teams like the San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks lurk in the distance.